A cluster of tents forms the beginning of the homeless encampment that runs along the Bayside Trail on April 27. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Portland plans to clear a large encampment along the Bayside Trail and then set up a task force to provide a better response and delivery of services at other sites.

The plans were discussed Tuesday night at a meeting of the City Council’s Health and Human Services & Public Safety Committee.

“The recommendation from staff is that we proceed forward with the encampment removal and we then implement the task force recommendations and plan with regards to other encampment locations around the city,” interim City Manager Danielle West told the committee. “It’s difficult to make that recommendation in light of the fact we don’t have other spaces to offer. I do so with a heavy heart, to be honest.”

The committee didn’t take any formal action on the recommendation, but West said after the meeting that based on the feedback she received staff will move ahead with the plan.

Several councilors said that while removing the encampment could be difficult and traumatic for the people that live there, it is the right move given health and safety concerns.

“This is horrible for everyone,” said Mayor Kate Snyder. “I appreciate the hard work of staff to make a recommendation from last Tuesday to this Tuesday … As imperfect as it is, I think what I’m hearing is the size and growth are so concerning that disbursement is preferable in order to manage the needs better.”


“I think the trauma of removal and not having a place to go is a real harm, but then I also have to wonder about the risk of staying in that encampment when there are not enough safety protocols, protections, sanitation,” said Councilor April Fournier, the committee chair. “If that starts to become larger than the risk of removal, I think that’s when the scale tips for me.”

Fournier said she hopes the city will work with community partners to reduce the trauma of removal and provide the people there with as much support as possible. She also asked that the city send a letter or resolution to the state and county notifying them of the action.

“I want to advocate for continued support whether it’s legislation passing, additional emergency resources, additional funding to try and figure out leasing a space or partnering with someone to lease a space,” Fournier said. “I’m trying to really look under every rock to try and find something.”

Councilors Anna Trevorrow and Victoria Pelletier said that while they support the task force they were having a hard time backing the clearing of the encampment.

Tents line the Bayside Trail on April 27. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“I can’t feel like that’s the right move when we don’t have anywhere else for individuals to go,” Pelletier said.

“You definitely have my stamp of approval with moving forward with the task force,” Trevorrow said. “I think I would prefer to try and make it work for the Bayside campsite. I don’t want to minimize the work and decision making – I appreciate it. But I’m coming at it from the frame of mind of what is in the best interest of these individuals, and I just can’t say this is the right thing to do.”


West said she will meet with city staff to figure out exactly when to remove the camp. City policy requires at least 24 hours notice prior to removals.

The decision comes as city staff noted at Tuesday’s meeting that the encampment and health and safety concerns associated with it have grown since last week, when the committee also met to talk about whether it should be cleared. Portland is currently providing emergency shelter to about 1,200 people per night, and all three sites the city is running are full.

Director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities Management Ethan Hipple told the committee Tuesday that the number of campsites around the city has jumped in the past week, from about 110 tents last week to 128 this week.

At the Bayside Trail, the number of tents has grown from 50 last week to 84 on Sunday, Hipple said. Another large encampment of about 21 tents is located along the Fore River Parkway.

Some of the increase is likely because hotels in neighboring communities that were sheltering people are no longer doing so, said Kristen Dow, the city’s director of health and human services.

Interim Police Chief Heath Gorham said there have been 49 calls for service at the encampment this month, compared to 20 for the entire month in that area last year. “That’s more than double in just nine days into the month,” he said.


Those calls have included a man swinging around a bat with a knife attached to it, another man with pepper spray and a metal pipe threatening members of the encampment and a charge of indecent conduct for a man who was found defecating in the vestibule of ConvenientMD, a nearby medical clinic, while they were open and taking patients.

“There is some concerning behavior and we are certainly hearing it from business owners,” Gorham said.

Dow has recommended that the city set up an ad-hoc task force of city departments and providers of outreach, housing and emergency shelter, medical and mental health care and faith services that would meet whenever a campsite might need to be removed.

The task force would also coordinate a mobile engagement center providing food, medical care, harm reduction, housing and shelter services, and other resources on-site seven days per week. Many of the city’s community partners are already doing that work, and the task force model would provide better oversight and coordination, Dow said.

West said the city will set it up as soon as possible.

“This is a really difficult situation,” she said. “These are human beings, and it’s not a good place to be. But the public health and safety concerns we have along the trail specifically are significant, so we’re trying to manage that as well as find a better way moving forward, which I think is what the task force will be.”

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